For better or worse, a large portion of today’s movies takes something familiar, and adds some different elements to make it something new. With romantic comedies, sci-fi, and horror, it’s actually more commonplace than something that’s completely original.
And one of the more popular themes over the years has been “successful, childless professional comes into possession of a child and it makes them re-evaluate their entire life.” We’ve seen Diane Keaton do it in “Baby Boom.” Kate Hudson took the reins in “Raising Helen.” Heck, even Steve Guttenberg (along with Ted Danson and Tom Selleck) was up for the challenge in “Three Men and a Baby.”
Taylor Schilling as Kate and Bryn Vale as Maddie “Family.” (Photo courtesy of The Film Arcade)
Writer/director Laura Steinel explores that dynamic once more in “Family” – this time with Taylor Schilling in the lead role.
Schilling stars as Kate, the hardnosed business woman who, in the midst of a family emergency, is forced to move into her brother’s home to care for her niece, Maddie (Bryn Vale). Not only does Kate know nothing about caring for a child, but her and Maddie have no real relationship to speak of. Making matters more difficult, Maddie is more into karate, magic, chicken parm, and making “weapons of nature” than she is in making things easy on her aunt.
After a particularly nasty falling out, Maddie runs away and it’s up to Kate to track her down … at the annual Gathering of the Juggalos. (For those not in the know, Juggalos are the devoted, face-painted fan base of Detroit rap duo, the Insane Clown Posse.)
Bryn Vale as Maddie in “Family.” (Photo courtesy of The Film Arcade)
It’s that last little nugget, and really not much else, that makes “Family” stand out from the pack. Aside from that piece, it’s fairly formulaic and predictable, but the inclusion of the much-maligned Juggalos (which the FBI placed on the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment) gives it an interesting twist.
Some might argue that “Family” portrays a dangerous gang in a somewhat positive light, despite a running joke acknowledging that the Gathering is like a county fair with an increased chance of getting stabbed. The opposition is likely to respond that Juggalos (and similar groups) are about family and belonging. And, really, that is “Family” is all about – Kate and Maddie both searching for a place where they fit in.
“Family” isn’t genre-shifting or something you have to drop everything to rush out and see, but its wrinkle really does add an unexpected element that makes it worth watching if the mood strikes.
★★★ of ★★★★★